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Chicago Area Group Plans March on McDonalds Over Sochi Sponsorship

by Bobby McGuire
Contributor
Monday Aug 12, 2013
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As the true pedigree of Stolichnaya vodka continues to be debated amidst a well-publicized national boycott against the brand, it appears as though the focus on protesting corporate support of the Russian government will be shifting, albeit temporarily, from from booze to burgers.

A Chicago area LGBT activist group is calling on McDonald’s to pull their sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. On Saturday, August 17, members and supporters of StonewallAgain plan a march on McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., from 11 a.m. to protest the fast food giant’s $100 million dollar sponsorship of the Games. According to a report in Windy City Media Group, StonewallAgain founder, Mike Lackovich, said that he had become dismayed with the situation in Russia and tried in vain to get contact with McDonald’s, which has so far remained silent on the matter.

Lackovich compared the persecutions to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. "This is history repeating itself," he said. "McDonald’s should be working with the IOC in order to find an alternative venue."

Outside of providing maximum exposure for brands, a corporate sponsorship of the Olympic Games can also translate into big bucks for sponsors in addition to a jolt to the local economy. For the 2012, London Summer Olympics, McDonald’s built its largest restaurant to date, employing over 2,000 people and selling over 50,000 units of its signature Big Mac hamburgers.

As reported in Examiner.com, McDonald’s has been working with the Olympics since 1968. Just a little over a decade after opening its first restaurant, McDonalds’s began its support of the Olympic movement by airlifting hamburgers to homesick U.S. athletes competing in Grenoble, France. McDonald’s is signed on to sponsor the games until 2020, and received prime real estate around sporting venues, making it, in many cases, the only food available in the immediate area.

McDonald’s may not be the sole target of activists for long, however. According to an article in Sports Illustrated, Yelena Goltsman, the founder of a New York-based gay-rights group for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, had called for moving the Games from Sochi to another country, but now says it’s too late for that.

Goltsman’s group, RUSA LGBT, is encouraging international corporations to withdraw their sponsorship of the Olympics or to flout the Russian law by including statements supporting gay rights in their commercials.

In an Aug. 9 radio interview with Michelangelo Signorile, Human Rights Watch Director of Global Initiatives Minky Worden suggested that the International Olympic Committee and their sponsors had carefully tracked the legislation but chose to look the other way.

"If they had leaned on [Russia] before the law was signed, it would not have been signed. That is absolutely true," said Worden.

There’s also currently an online petition aimed at getting other major corporate sponsors to pull out of the Sochi Games. The letter to sponsors on the Change.org petition reads:

To: Coca-Cola, Panasonic, VISA, Samsung, Procter & Gamble

Stand for human rights and pull sponsorship from the 2014 Winter Olympics! State sponsored homophobia should not be endorsed by your company. Tell Putin you do not support imprisoning and endangering the freedoms of gay athletes, fans, family, friends, and citizens!

As of this writing that petition has over 109,000 signers.

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